Periodical Reviews -- By: Carisa A. Ash

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 172:687 (Jul 2015)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Carisa A. Ash

Periodical Reviews

By The Faculty and Library Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary

Carisa A. Ash


“Evangelicalism: Past, Present, and Future,” David S. Dockery, Trinity Journal 36 (Spring 2015): 3-21.

Dockery, president of Trinity International University, asserts that “evangelicalism—past, present, and future—is a story of complexities,” but he believes that unifying characteristics and common features make it meaningful to speak of the movement as a whole (p. 3). He concludes by proposing several priorities as evangelicalism faces the future with hope.

Dockery describes evangelicals as “men and women who love Jesus Christ, love the Bible, and love the gospel message. They are gospel people” (ibid.). He identifies a “hallmark of the movement” as “a willingness to cooperate together in evangelism, mission, and educational efforts. Evangelicalism is a crossdenominational movement that emphasizes a classical Protestant theology, which is best understood as a culturally-engaged, historically-shaped response to mainline liberalism on the one hand and reactionary fundamentalism on the other” (pp. 3-4). This mediating position between liberalism (denial of Christian orthodoxy) and fundamentalism (“orthodoxy gone cultic”), “which became so influential in the last half of the twentieth century, replaced the mainline denominations in the center of American religious life” (pp. 10-11).

Evangelicalism faces multiple challenges today. Dockery’s description seems accurate: “Evangelicalism in the twenty-first century, however, is anything but a unified flourishing movement in North America. In fact, as the influence of Billy Graham declines, so does the movement’s unity” (p. 16). Not quite as clear is his claim that “ethnic minority churches are expanding and growing [while] the majority of primarily white congregations . . . are in decline” (p. 16).

Dockery observes that the death of many evangelical “shaping leaders of the past generation” in the early years of the century has coincided, or perhaps caused, evangelicals to “seem to be adrift” (p. 18). (He lists John Stott, Kenneth Kantzer, Bill Bright, Ted Engstrom, Carl F. H. Henry, Vernon Grounds, and Chuck Colson, and the declining influence of Billy Graham). To restore evangelicalism’s vitality, Dockery calls for the movement to reclaim “a dynamic orthodoxy . . . in conversation with Nicea, Chalcedon, Augustine,” and other voices throughout the Christian tradition (p. 20). In addition to this doctrinal orthodoxy, “evangelicals must

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